Natalie Portman has signed on to play Supreme Court Justice and legendary women’s rights advocate Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex. Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) is in talks to direct the 2014 Black List script by Daniel Stiepleman. Robert W. Cort will produce alongside Ron Bergman as executive producer, and Focus Features is in negotiations to finance.
The film will chronicle Ginsburg’s career and the struggles she faced in her fight for equal rights. Ginsburg graduated first in her class from Columbia Law School and went on to work as a professor at both Rutgers and Columbia, where she became the university’s first tenured female professor. During this period she became the leading litigator for gender equality and argued several landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
She was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, where she became the second female justice and first Jewish female justice in American History. Last month, Time Magazine selected her as an “Icon” in their annual list of Time’s 100 Most Influential People.
The casting announcement comes on the heels of yesterday’s news that Portman is in talks for Alex Garland‘s Ex-Machina follow-up, Annihilation. As Adam noted in his report, Portman’s deal is apparently dependent upon production starting no earlier than the beginning of 2016. Now we know why. Per Deadline, On the Basis of Sex is coming together quickly in hopes that production will start before the end of the year, putting it ahead of Garland’s sci-fi thriller.
This would be the sophomore feature for Heller, whose directorial debut The Diary of a Teenage Girl premiered to rave reviews at Sundance. The film stars Kristin Wiig, Alexander Skarsgaard and Bel Powley as a teenage aspiring comic book artist coming of age in 1970s San Francisco. Heller and Portman make an exciting combination of strong female voices to bring the story of one of America’s great gender equality pioneers to the big screen. It’s no secret that female directors struggle to lock down big-name projects despite film festival success, so there would be a nice meta quality to seeing Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s story from a female voice who beat the odds.